15 Perished in US Sailing Tragedies in 2018

Every year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the United States Coast Guard, and the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety publish a report of statistics about recreational boating accidents. The 2018 report was just published and there were three fewer sailing deaths than last year and nine fewer than four years ago, definitely a positive trend. I suspect that it is due more to the decline in the popularity of sailing than to increased safety awareness among skippers. Accordingly, the numbers of general boating deaths, accidents, and injuries are down slightly as well.

The report contains extensive data about:

  • Accident causes and conditions
  • Accident types
  • Operator/passenger information
  • Casualty summaries
  • Boat registration data

It’s well worth reading to learn from the mistakes of others and it’s quite detailed:

  • 83 pages long
  • 38 tables of statistics
  • 16 charts

In a nutshell, the Coast Guard recorded 4,145 accidents that involved 633 deaths, 2,511 injuries and approximately $46 million of damage to property that resulted from recreational boating accidents in 2018. Those figures involved vessels of all types.

Most of the accidents that had casualties involved motorboats and personal watercraft, which is no surprise to most skippers. Readers of this blog will be most interested in the accidents that involved sailboats.

Sailing is a comparatively safe sport. Speeds are slower and it requires more skill to pilot a sailboat. We’ve earned a good safety record but it’s not perfect and we can all learn lessons from this year’s report.

To make it easy to glean and remember the most important points for sailors from this year’s report, I created the following poster. It reflects only the data from the report that is related to sailboats; our own report card, if you will.

What you should take away from this is:

  • Too many people die in sailing accidents every year, including many children. Be a safe skipper.
  • Many more people suffer avoidable life-threatening injuries. Sail responsibly.
  • Know how to recover a crew member from cold water quickly. Be prepared.
  • You’re as likely to have an accident with another boat as anything else. Don’t assume the other guy will do the right thing, you do it.
  • Most accidents are caused by somebody not paying attention. Always keep watch.
  • Everyone should wear a personal flotation device to cut their risk of drowning. Be smart, not stubborn.

You can download your own copy of the report for free here.

You may freely distribute this poster anywhere you want without my permission. In fact, PLEASE DO. Put it on your club’s website, post it on your Facebook page, print it out and pin it up on your marina’s bulletin board, wherever. To make it even easier, click the poster above to download a printable PDF file even if you’re not a subscriber of this blog. Want to subscribe? Read on.

Let’s all help raise awareness about sailing safety and let’s start aboard our own sailboats.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Gabriel says:

    Thanks for putting this together.

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